Mohawk Lakes
excerpts from the book
Incredible Backcountry Trails 
by David Day

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Incredible Backcountry Trails
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    Distance: 6.6 miles (round trip)

    Walking time:  4 3/4 hours

    : 1,700 ft. gain/loss
       Spruce Creek Trailhead (start): 10,380 ft.
       Lower Mohawk Lake: 11,820 ft. 

    Trail: Popular, well marked trail

    Season: Midsummer through mid-Fall. The trail is covered with snow from mid-November through mid-July.

    Vicinity: near Breckenridge

    Mohawk LakesMohawk Lakes


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    One would be hard pressed to find a prettier hike than the Mohawk Lakes Trail. The two Mohawk Lakes are very scenic and, as an added bonus, there is a nice waterfall in the creek below the lakes. There are also a number of interesting relics in the area from Colorado’s late 1800s mining boom. Mining camps were built in the vicinity of Mayflower Lake and Lower Mohawk Lake in the 1880s, and today some of the log cabins in these two camps can still be seen. Of course, most of the cabins have long since collapsed, but one has recently been restored and it is occasionally used as a bivouac by overnight campers. It contains a primitive sleeping loft and even a wood-burning stove to warm cross-country skiers and other winter visitors.

    From Spruce Creek Trailhead the trail immediately enters a dense forest of Engelmann spruce and lodgepole pine and starts following the north side of Spruce Creek. After 0.5 mile it crosses the creek and begins to climb gradually above the south side of the drainage. About 25 minutes after leaving the creek you will come to a signed junction where the Wheeler Trail crosses Spruce Creek Tail, and soon afterword the forest opens up to a large meadow with picturesque views of Mount Helen (13,164 ft.) on the right.

    Ten minutes after the Wheeler Trail junction the trail intersects the upper end of Spruce Creek Road. The creek is used as a source of water for communities in the Blue River Valley below, and you will probably notice the presence of a large underground water tank on the north side of the road. Walk up the road for a few hundred feet until it ends at the outlet of a small reservoir, and look for the continuation of the trail on your right. The path is marked by a small sign pointing the way to Mayflower Lake and the Mohawk Lakes.

    Shortly after leaving the road you will come to another sign where a short spur trail to Mayflower Lake leaves the main trail. You should turn right here for the side trip to Mayflower Lake. The lake itself is rather small and uninteresting, but nearby you can see the intriguing remains of an old, abandoned mining camp-a town where men once struggled against a highly contagious affliction known as "gold fever".

    Gold was discovered at the nearby Mayflower Mine in 1887, and for a brief time the mine sporadically yielded ore as rich as 30 ounces of gold per ton. But the euphoria was short-lived; the mines soon played out and the camps were vacated. In the end there was but one resident left. A hermit named Tom Davidson continued to live with his cat in one of the cabins near Mayflower Lake until his death around 1920.

    As you continue on toward Mohawk Lakes you will soon come to the remains of an old stamping mill. Nearby is a cabin that has recently been restored and is occasionally used by hikers and cross-country skiers. It is the only one of the dozen or so cabins in the area that still has a roof on it. Inside is a crude plaque inscribed with the words:

    Welcome to Continental Cabin, 11,402 feet, circa 1883, the last bastion of freedom in this here Summit County. May the peace of these surroundings be felt by you and yours while you stay. The cabin was saved from filth and decrepitness on October 21, 1989 for the purpose of nothing more than sheer enjoyment.

    The bottom of Continental Falls is only a few hundred feet north of Continental Cabin; you should check it out before continuing on to Mohawk Lakes. A primitive trail to the Falls begins a hundred feet east of the cabin, behind the roofless remains of another cabin.

    From the hikers’ cabin the trail switchbacks up the south side of Spruce Creek for 0.4 mile, climbing 400 feet to the lower Mohawk Lake. Just before you reach the lake you will see the remains of an old wooden tower that was once part of a tramway for lowering ore to the mill below. There are also a few broken-down cabins on the west end of the lake along with the tailings from several abandoned mines. However these artifacts of human occupation no longer distract from the beauty of the lake. It has been over a century since the mines were worked, and the old weathered, roofless cabins now seem to fit perfectly with the wild scenery. They are now simply a small reminder of Colorado’s colorful past.

    The trail continues along the south side of the lower lake for a hundred yards, then veers away to begin the climb to the upper lake. The upper lake is only 300 feet higher than Lower Mohawk Lake, but that small elevation gain is enough to make a big difference in vegetation. Lower Mohawk Lake is just below timberline, but Upper Mohawk is above that magic elevation and no trees grow here. The lake is also much deeper and wider than the lower lake, and there are no obvious mines in the area to mar its pristine beauty.


    The book includes more text, more photographs, and trail maps.

    IIf you are interested in a supplemental map of the Mohawk Lakes trail
    we recommend:
    Breckenridge-Tennessee Pass  (Trails Illustrated, map #109)

    Click here for DISCOUNTED MAP ORDERS

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